We spoke with the remarkable Asha Jane, who was kind enough to talk us through her songwriting process and share some thoughts on the current state of femininity within the music industry.
Dash Majesty: For those who don’t know, please introduce yourself.
Asha Jane: I’m Asha Jane, a songwriter and artist from Wales, who also loves Bristol.
DM: Tell us the story behind your track Soul Society.
AJ: It is based on a poem, that I learned during my A levels, called The Soul selects her own society by Emily Dickinson. I was sitting at the piano one day and suddenly felt inspired by the message behind it.
DM: Could you explain your concept for the visuals? Was this your first experience directing a music video?
AJ: There are so many people who still connect with Dickinson’s work and, although I’ll never meet her, it made me wonder what it would be like having her, or a similar figure, in my life. That is where my friend and actress Saskia Pay stepped into the role as herself/Dickinson. It was my first experience directing my own video, although I collaborated with some people I went to school with. Jamie, my co-director, did most of the filming and editing and dealt with my demands – I (apologetically) had him change the final edit three times.
DM: Regarding your songwriting process, do you prefer writing lyrics, or melodies and harmonies? Could you tell us why?
AJ: Generally I don’t have a preference, I enjoy the whole process, but lyrics are definitely my strong point in terms of speed. They come to me all the time and in most cases I will already have an idea for a melody in my head.
The best advice I ever followed was to just put yourself out there…
DM: Seeing as you’ve drawn inspiration from Emily Dickinson – somewhat of a women’s rights icon – would you agree that you try to include a touch of this feminist influence in your work?
AJ: I didn’t set out to do so on purpose, but since I believe in standing up for equal rights in general, the label comes naturally.
DM: Continuing from the last question, do you feel your femininity ever acts as a hindrance in the music industry?
AJ: I recently went to an event in London, aimed at getting women in the industry to collaborate, held in association with PRS For Music. It turns out only 13% of people signing up as producers and songwriters are women. I’ve always had guidance and mentorship from female musicians and songwriters, so the statistic made me realise how fortunate I’ve been.
DM: Given the current global political and social tensions regarding black rights, how are you finding building a career as a black, female artist?
AJ: Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve been asked. A future where colourism is obsolete is of course ideal. Quite often in my life, unless it’s family, I’ve been the only person-of-colour in a room. I moved from the cultural hub that is London, to a rural area in Wales, so it was bound to happen. The tensions definitely have an affect, but I struggle to think of a recent personal example.
I’ve been out with other black artists before and was shocked to notice crowds part, likely due to negative stereotypes. It wasn’t something I was used to noticing, and it made me realise I had to check my privilege and not be so naive. Vernacular English, my mixed-heritage and the popularity of artists such as Alicia Keys and Beyonce likely play a huge part in my palatability.
DM: Do you have many unfinished songs?
AJ: Unfinished probably isn’t the right word. I have lots in storage, they’re packed away in boxes and notebooks, because if they weren’t I would be drowning in paper. I’ve gone through long phases of writing at least two sets of lyrics a day – so I honestly couldn’t tell you how many there are. It’s great though! I have this huge backlog of songs that I could record if I ever run out of ideas. I might even “do a Prince” and get a vault.
DM: Tell us a little about your upcoming EP.
AJ: It’s a three track EP called Innocence|Experience|Reflection – because the songs represent those learning phases for me. I’m so proud of it. When we started recording I was worried about completion because I had been ill for a while and the doctors had not yet found a solution. It’s almost done now, and I’m really well.
DM: What do you believe is the most difficult or challenging aspect of being an unsigned artist in 2017? Do you have any pearls of wisdom you can share with other new artists?
AJ: Learning how to do all of it yourself is difficult, but not impossible. I’m pretty confident in my abilities, but I feel like I took the time to really know myself first. The best advice I ever followed was to just put yourself out there, everything else will follow after that.
Live vicariously through Asha by hacking into her Facebook fan page. Hack into her Twitter account and start convincing her friends that you are the real Asha Jane. Photoshop your face into all of Asha’s Instagram photos and create an account under your new Asha Jane identity.